Posts Tagged ‘BSGA’

The end of January saw some necessary hardware upgrades of which one, the new 2016 Mac Book Pro, was an absolute pain in the proverbial for a couple of weeks.

So when you spend some serious money on hardware to assist your business you would at least expect it to work properly. Now we already have Macs and they have proven their worth in the photography side of things, especially with batch editing massive amounts of RAW files after events. Some of you may know what I mean here with the word ‘massive’ though if you are new to the blog then a typical event will garner some 5000 images on average with up to 14,000 images on national final and similar event size dates.

We have tried Windows based PC’s and to be honest they just don’t stack up against the Macs. Speed difference is blatantly obvious to the naked eye let alone when tests are run for comparison. Indeed after purchasing a so called Dell powerhouse of a laptop, which was allegedly a competitor for the Macs, it soon became obvious that this was a complete waste of money, business wise. We ran several tests, side by side, and the Dell just lagged behind in every test we did. Now we are no PC testers but loading or processing batches of identical images through photoshop, side by side, showed the windows based machine was a true snail of a editing machine. That’s the Mac v PC explained for us.

So the new MBP was unboxed, loaded up with operating essentials and prepared to be thrown in at the deep end. The deep end was the British Schools Gymnastics Association Trampoline Finals in Newcastle. This is a huge event for us and indeed the third year we have covered the finals. The rewards can be somewhat hit and miss, depending on the amount of parents who actually attend the event. More parents mean more sales and you have no idea on those numbers until the day arrives and competition begins.

Parents aside our first major issue began after setting up. Fully bench tested at home the Mac was fine and did as it should with everything required. With all the photoshop actions transferred over and new save locations adjusted this should have been as any event set up yet something was seriously amiss …….. the Mac wouldn’t link to our external display. We swapped displays between Macs and the 2012 Mac worked on both yet the 2016 Mac just wouldn’t see the external display. It had worked in testing. at home, so what was the issue here? This was new kit so straight to Google we went and what we found was not good reading. Plenty of 2016 MBP owners complaining that their machines were either intermittently seeing external displays or not seeing the displays at all. Now ours had seen the external display at home so why not here.

To cut a long story short we ended up completing a whole national series event with only one display operating which was a major hindrance. Tweets were flying between ourselves and Apple trying to resolve the issue with things moving onto phone calls in attempts to reset the software responsible for the Mac to see the external display. Nothing worked and trying to do this between potential customers was just ridiculous and embarrassing. Apple Care, to be honest, did the best they could when Apple as a company had clearly sent out machines with known issues. I had read of people having this issue from the machines being new some six months previously, so my blood was boiling before things had even started. You would expect that this would have been quickly rectified by such a manufacturer yet it would appear not. We know this whole debacle cost us money as the whole editing to print process that includes the input of customers took an eternity. Ordinarily the customer is looking at the large external display as we operate the laptop. Discussions on editing are done in real time and the whole thing runs smoothly. Take away the external display and the whole system falls down. Turning a laptop to face a customer up to 20 times during editing takes time you don’t have with a large queue. Some waited patiently whilst others simply walked away at the time it was taking.

Not a great start with the new MBP.

Ouch 1

Issue number two was not too far behind. Photoshop was just crashing constantly and when this happens several times whilst trying to serve one customer, all parties can become quite rightly frustrated. Apple Care were bemused by this one and indeed it carried on for several days until it appeared to simply rectify itself.

I was initially informed it was a glitch, not to worry and just use the machine as normal. When I informed Apple that Photoshop was crashing because of the apparent lack of memory, I was then informed that this was a known issue and on the “to do” list at Apple and then told sorry but you’ll just have to wait for the update. Non of this helped us on the day and of course being a small business we can’t go knocking for redress at Apple. What this will do however, is ensure that I know all potential issues that could and would affect us will be shown to be non existing or resolved before I purchase a brand new updated model again. Whilst manufacturers love to see people queuing for the latest model on release day, I will not be amongst them with Apple products.

A screen shot of the memory allocation issue.

Yes 1.22TB of memory taken on a 500GB drive ……. go figure 😡

Ouch

 

The year certainly kicked off in style and other than the first weekend we were booked for all subsequent weekends. Year on year this was a large increase as have been the bookings for the entirety of 2017. We either have odd days on a weekend spare or no space at all until the second week in December. Word of mouth has seen us be snapped up over several regions and now with the equestrian work a weekend off will be rare. We have however reached agreement that for 2 weeks in August I will not take any bookings and leave 2 weeks empty as agreed in 2016.

The middle two weekends were both gymnastics with the North West BSGA Zonal Qualifiers followed by the North West NDP Individual & team qualifiers. Both huge weekends for not only ourselves but those involved I would say some 800-1000 competitors were involved over each weekend. A massive undertaking for both organisers and ourselves which I am pleased to say ran smoothly for both sides.

We now offer some new versions of our popular event montages which have gone down well. Maintaining prices at £10-£25 depending on how many images are chosen we have simply mixed the orientation of imagery that can be selected. This has allowed imagery such as team photo’s that tend to be landscape in orientation to be mixed with action images that tend to be in portrait orientation. Further options are currently being trialled for offerings.

January ended up being our busiest January for the last five years. It also yielded the highest take and subsequent conversion to profit too. With repeat bookings for next January we can hopefully rely on a good start to 2018 also.

This blogs image is a triple montage from one of the gymnastics events.

Jan 17

 

The end of 2016 was somewhat manic and so to simply write up about each and every event would be literacy lunacy at best. It would probably bore most people to sleep also.

The biggest event of the year for us was the Trampoline League Finals which were held at the Velodrome in Londons Olympic Park. Some of you may recall that we also covered the 2015 finals at the Copper Box Arena, across the road. Though the velodrome was clearly built for cycling the fact that the track was there made an excellent barrier between competitors and spectators. This kept the main competition floor clear of curios spectators that ignored keeping the floor clear of spectators at the Coper Box. You now have to imaging some 600+ competitors over the 2 days all doing two qualifying routines on the Saturday and then onto the actual finals on the Sunday. To say this is manic for us would be a gross understatement on the physical workload imposed. The two days saw us capture some 12,500 images in total which were all individually colour checked, cropped and uploaded into specific online galleries by the Thursday of the same week. Literally 7am to 11pm, over four days, continually using 2 computers to edit with is a guaranteed headache by 12 noon each day. Plenty of water consumed its almost like a marathon for your mental abilities to remain focussed on what you are doing. As with anything repetitive this can go somewhat wrong at times and this is where you take that 5 minute break and grab some air and refresh your brain.

The weekend was the success that the previous year had been too. As a consequence we are booked to cover the 2017 series including finals, which are again at the Velodrome. Our only niggle was the location for our sales desk which was somewhat stratospheric in location and required quite a trek, by potential customers, to reach us. This year we will be requesting a more local to the people spot.

Here’s my daughter with the view from our desk. This was the Friday evening during setup.

velodrom

Other notable jobs we undertook at the end of 2016 where the BSGA Schools qualifiers for the Yorkshire, North West & North East regions. These were held over three weekends, owing to their size, and again kept us busy as they were all held on successive weekends.

The Yorkshire championships were also held which was a mad weekend away in Huddersfield. Another fine spectacle of well drilled kids showing their skills to a most interested audience.

After a few Xmas parties for clubs and businesses the year came to a close for us in the third week of December. To actually sit and not have to worry for a couple of weeks about batteries, printers, monitors, and anything else equipment wise was lovely and allowed us to enjoy both Xmas and the New Year.

2017 was now knocking on the door. Bookings started in the January and with what was already a good solid years bookings did not include the surprise contract which arrived at the end of January. With several bookings already in for 2018 things were looking good.

I’ll leave with the image of our business logo being shown on the giant screens at the Velodrome. When I looked up and saw this for the first time I got one of those big silly smiles across my face. All the hard work was worth it.

velodrome tv

This is something that I knocked together for the BSGA Schools Trampoline series and to advertise that we were covering the Northern Zonals along with the upcoming finals.

The young lady in the leotard is my daughter. The image of her in that pose was taken in the studio and then simply photoshopped onto the swirling galaxy image. Taken with her sat on a black sheet and with a black background the removal was easy to accomplish. With a couple of star burst or lens flares added to strategic places the image was good to go.

I could have taken far more care over this yet as it was only going online to social media and not being printed out I felt that the time making things perfect was not justified. Issues with the hair, feet etc could have been sorted to look a little more convincing but for something such as this is there a need?

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One series we now cover had its 2015 finals last weekend in Wigan. Odd but they don’t actually start the qualifiers until late in the year and then have the finals in the first quarter of the following year. Must be an educational thing.

Anyway the culmination of all the qualifiers and subsequent knock out rounds around the country led us to Wigan for an excellent days competition. Some 400 competitors, all of school age, battling it out for an array of age and ability awards. The atmosphere within the competitors and most of the parents was one of excitement and positivity. As always there were a couple of moaning minis but hey ho the world needs these miserable gits to laugh at.

Whilst there was the usual array of Elite gymnasts form other series we now cover there were also the novice and disabled individuals of which some were truly inspirational. It was superb to see that all the gymnasts encouraged and even assisted in helping some of these gymnasts achieve their given goal. Grassroots sports is all too often neglected these days owing to money etc yet this is where, I personally see, the truly compassionate side of competition regardless of age, gender, money, disability etc etc. Whilst I agree some degree of elitism/dedication is required to reach the pinnacle of any sport people shouldn’t abandon or forget their roots and where they once started at the bottom.

Our coverage of the UK National League starts this weekend down at Southampton. This should be interesting as the whole series of qualifiers is maxed out at the 750 competitor safety limits. Last year we were dealing with 350 – 750 competitors per event so this year will see a marked increase in the obscene amount of images taken and GB storage used with our equipment. I still await the announcement for the 5D Mkiv specification before making a decision on at least one new body owing to the telephone number shutter count one of our 5Diii’s currently has. Nice and quick please Canon 🙂

A quick image showing some of the winners from last weekend.

Twin Image